Rachel Podger, Trevor Pinnock, Jonathan Manson

Bach: Sonatas for Violin and Obbligato Harpsichord

If you’re planning on giving someone baroque music for Christmas, don’t stick them with yet another Antonio Vivaldi Four Seasons or Johann Pachelbel Canon. Give them something really different, captivating and substantial. These sonatas for violin and harpsichord by Johann Sebastian Bach are superb music, exquisitely played by violinist Rachel Podger and harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock, both big names in baroque music. Jonathan Manson ably assists them in some pieces on viola da gamba. Unlike later three-movement sonatas of the classical period, these are in four and five movements and are more like suites. The music at once captivates on every level: alluring melodic turns, exciting imitations, innovative harmonic progressions and a sense of purpose and forward momentum, even in the slow movements.